Friday, 11 November 2011

British Council and Instituto Cervantes, word for word

SPAIN / BRITAIN (El País / Jesús Ruiz Mantilla) The two predominating Western languages in the world had, until recently, looked askance at one another. Now, the challenges of survival and of holding on to their influence in the future are forcing them to align. Palabra por palabra/Word for Word, a new book drafted jointly by the British Council and the Cervantes Institute, constitutes a bilingual compendium of the challenges facing two languages concerned with the unbridled expansion of Chinese, Arabic and Hindi. The longstanding division of the West into an Anglo-Saxon north and a Latin - predominantly Hispanic - south is slowly becoming a thing of history. Combined, both worlds represent nearly a billion people who speak either English or Spanish.>>>
If we add all the people who have learnt either one as a second language, that figure is doubled. "This is the first step in a joint analysis of the challenges within our spheres of influence," says Carmen Caffarel, director of the Cervantes Institute, while Rod Pryde, director of the British Council in Madrid, believes that "the time has come to share views, to determine what is happening with our respective languages in today's world."

The languages are seeking their place in the global village, aware they have the ability to multiply business opportunities and create jobs. These and other issues are explored in Palabra por palabra, which was presented Thursday at the Cervantes Institute in Madrid. Though both languages had followed separate paths until now, their coexistence in the United States has changed things. With the second-largest Spanish-speaking community in the world after Mexico, or some 50 million people, the US has proven that coexistence opens up many possibilities.

"It was Americans, with their common sense, who forced the British and the Spanish to sit up and take notice of the opportunities of an alliance," says Ángel López García, author of Anglohispanos (or, Anglohispanics), who also contributed to Palabra por palabra. Humberto López Morales, another contributing author, notes that common terms make up 98 percent of the language throughout the Spanish-speaking world - the same occurs in English. In fast-growing countries like Brazil, 5.5 million people are studying Spanish and 25 million are potential English students. The threats all come from the East.

"What will happen with Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi in the future?" asks Pryde. "They are harder to learn, which is an obstacle to becoming major languages at a global scale. But we really cannot predict what will happen."

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